Struck me this week that 15 (!) years had gone by since the July and August release of the International Republican Institute Kenya 2007 Election Observation Mission final report and the Exit Poll following my family’s return to the US from my time in Kenya as Chief of Party on each of those USAID programs.
A quick catch up on-line generated a critical document that I had not noted previously. It is a report prepared by IFES for Open Society East Africa for submission to IREC, popularly known as the “Kreigler Commission” which was to investigate the failed election as a result of the February 28, 2008 “Peace Deal” and subsequent processes to implement the basic terms. The Commission reported privately to President Kibaki and then released a public report (see my key document links) that elided actual investigation of the ECK’s tally of the Presidential vote as such.
Lots of worthwhile material but here is key except, in context of US policy – as I was told by a “player” well after the fact – to back the result of the ECK full stop. Aside from the issue of such a policy making the USAID-funded IRI Election Observation Mission Program and the Exit Poll beside the point at best, it clarifies why the State Department should have known better than to have such a policy—and stick with it in being alone in initially congratulating Kibaki until the violence was raging (aside from the fact that Ambassador Ranneberger himself witnessed fraud in the central ECK tally operation with EU Chief Observation Delegate Lambsdorf as I have demonstrated through obtaining his January 2, 2008 cable to Washington through FOIA).
. . . .
Early Warning Signs in Electoral Management
With the benefit of hindsight, it is possible to infer that a well-orchestrated plan was
implemented to ensure a predetermined election result:
a. President Kibaki’s decision to abrogate the IPPG agreement of 1997 on the
formula for appointments to the Electoral Commission ensured that all of the
Commissioners were appointed by him alone. The IPPG agreement had capped
the maximum number of Commissioners to 22 and reserved 10 seats to be filled
by persons appointed by the President after recommendations by opposition
b. The allegations of questionable procedure in the appointment of returning
officers by Commissioners.
c. An offer from the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) to install a
computer program that would have enabled election officials in the
constituencies to submit results electronically to Nairobi and then on to a giant
screen available to the public, making it virtually impossible to change results,
d. The use of ECK staff in the Verification and Tallying Center was abandoned in
favor of casual staff recruited directly by the Commissioners.
e. The Commission refused to ensure that election officials in areas with large
predictable majorities for any of the candidates came from different areas so as
to reduce the likelihood of ballot stuffing.
Since opinion polls from the 2007 elections consistently indicated a very tight contest, the
neutrality of the ECK was always paramount, particularly in the event of a thin margin and a
too-close-to-call election. The new appointments made by President Kibaki to the ECK early in
2007 elicited protests from the opposition that he was fortifying the ECK with his supporters
despite the need for the electoral body to be perceived as fair and independent, a perception
crucial to political stability in a region where many political systems are unstable. Several actors
appealed to President Kibaki to consult the opposition prior to making appointments to the
Electoral Commission, with no perceptible effect.
These developments exacerbated problems within the ECK. Although the ECK had improved
substantially since 2002 in its ability to manage elections, the commission still clung to many
questionable practices. For example, votes were counted at the polling station without
transportation to a central tallying center, a process prone to abuse and manipulation by the
former regime. The unilateral appointments by the President meant that the ECK was now
perceived as subject to control, direction, and manipulation by the government.